Families Belong Together

Dearest Felix and Zora,

When I dropped you off at school this morning, you both struggled to let go of me. Zora- you tightened your tiny fists around my shirt and wailed when your teacher lifted you away. I could hear the echo of your cries in the hallway as we walked to your brother’s room.

And Felix, when we stepped outside into the beautiful courtyard of your classroom, filled with cars and tools and a water table waiting to be used-you didn’t want to play. You wrapped your feet and arms around my right leg like a monkey and wouldn’t let go.

It’s as if there is a fear of separation in the air. Maybe you both sense the painful separations of families at our border. Perhaps you can pick up on the heartbreak of children taken from their parents when seeking refuge or asylum in the U.S.. Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families under the zero tolerance immigration policy.

I want to tell you a story.

A few weeks ago I had both of you at a rundown grocery store in a part of town we usually avoid. Felix, you were sitting in the seat at the front of the cart and Zora, you were in your car seat filling up the cart itself. I tucked three father’s day cards around you and a bag of grapes, a bunch of bananas, and a box of Benadryl. We were headed for the checkout stand and I paused to look at a magazine. The next thing I know, a man is standing between me and the cart- offering to help me hold one of you while I check out. I said no thanks- but he ignored my request. Felix: he started to lift you out of the cart and he reached for Zora. Everything felt off and I immediately panicked. I shouted “Stop!” and rushed out of the store, piled everything in the car and drove home fast.

I realized I had stolen $42 worth of groceries. In Ohio, shoplifting that amount is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. But I’d do it again if I felt it would keep you safe. Any parent would.

I went back to the store on my own and paid my bill. And today, I will pick you up from school today and we will be together again this evening. But there are children who do not know when they will be reunited with their families because their parents committed a misdemeanor by crossing the border illegally. This is unacceptable and wrong.

And parents fleeing their homes to protect their children isn’t new. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with baby Jesus to escape Herod. They were refugees. They were immigrants. They sought asylum.

When I read scriptures from Romans 13 (a biblical reference used by many today to justify harsh laws separating families at the boarder) it says:

Romans 13:9-10: The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Here’s what I know:

-when in doubt, loving one another and acting out of love is the greatest law of all

-Mothers from every culture and community would break a human law to protect their children

-Families belong together

My darlings, in these troubled times, I can tell you we are paying attention. We are going to do all we can to help children just like you who need their mommies and daddies.

To work for change, we can give money to organizations working to reunite families like this one: https://www.theyoungcenter.org/stories/2018/5/8/young-center-announces-the-immigrant-child-and-family-rights-project

We can call our representatives (find yours here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members_) and demand action (find a script for the call if you need it here: https://www.aclu.org/issues/call-senators-stop-dhs-separating-children).

You inspire us to work for the good.

Love, Mom and Dad

 

 

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Parenting in the Midst of Valentines and Violence (A Confession to my Son)

Peace

Dearest Felix:

On February 14th, you came home with your arms full of Valentines-small red and pink papers covered in finger paintings and stickers. You and your classmates exchanged these cards during circle time. In the very moments that you exchanged gestures of love and sweetness with your peers- students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida witnessed one of their peers kill 17 people and injure dozens more.

Today, a little boy at our local middle school took a gun to school and hurt himself in the bathroom.

You are 2 1/2, so you probably won’t ask me about this sad event today or what happened last Wednesday. But soon, my sweet child- we will have to have the talk about what to do, what to think, and how to respond when such horrible events happen.

I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to talk to you about this.

As a parent in 2018, when our country averages 3 school shootings each week- I live with such fear. How do I protect your innocence and still prepare you for tragedy?

When you hear “pop” you think of Pete the Cat and his groovy buttons popping off his shirt. But I think of the way the students in Parkland described the sounds of gunshots.

When you say “Crash, bang, boom”- you mean to imitate the sound of a front end loader building a road from your A to Z construction site book.

When I hear “Crash, bang, boom”- I fear the sounds of an attack, and I shudder.

Your eyes light up when we talk about heroes and yet I want to teach you how to hide behind a desk, and how you don’t need to be a hero for me, you just need to survive.

Darling boy: please forgive me-forgive all of us- for letting it get like this.

These are broken times, and I do not have the words to begin to explain to you how we got here, or why there is so much to fear.

But I know this: blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I know that you are made out of love. And so is everybody else.

I know that you are a source of light and you were made to shine that light. And so is everybody else you meet.

I know that things can be different, and we are going to work together to change them. I will teach you how we can work for change.

In the meantime, we will continue to be kind and gentle with everyone we meet. We will practice building people up. We will build bridges instead of walls and extend welcome instead of exclusion.

And every day- I’m going to hold you close, remind you I love you, and encourage you to be the good we wish to see in the world.

Love,

Mom

A Letter To My Kids After The Las Vegas Shooting

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Dearest Zora and Felix,
I just tucked you into bed after hours of rocking on our front porch chairs and singing 13 verses of “the wheels on the bus” at the dinner table. In our sweet little nest, it seemed like an ordinary evening.

Zora-you showed off your cooing and kicking on the baby gym.

Felix-you splashed in the tub and practiced counting to 14.

We shared a few family hugs at Felix’s request.

Then, as we turned out the lights, I sang our usual night night songs.

We honored all of our family traditions at home and it seemed like any ordinary Monday. But, my darlings, inside- my heart was aching.

Because last night, other families were trying to have an ordinary evening of singing songs together and sharing food at a country music concert – but a gunman opened fire and hundreds were wounded, dozens lost their lives.

It feels like the ordinary has become unsafe in this broken world.

How can I let you go to school tomorrow? How can I let you out of my sight?

How can I sleep knowing other mothers, just like me, lost their children last night?

How can I rest when it seems the news is always reminding me to be afraid, to shield you from the outside world, to keep you all to myself – which is the only way to be sure you will never see terror like our country saw last night in Las Vegas?

But then, I remember the wonder that lives in your eyes.

You both carry such courage and such hope in your bright faces. You long to learn and grow. You have an openness to the world.

My job as your mom is to foster that courage. Because you, my dears, will be the change I wish to see in the world.

I promise you I will do my part as you are growing up.

I will vote for smart gun laws and I will pray for peace that passes all understanding. I will teach you to be leaders and bridgebuilders.

I will cling tightly to the good in the world, and I will make sure you have eyes to see it too.

On a night like tonight, as our community grieves the violence and terror we saw in Las Vegas, you remind me to help. You remind me to advocate for change.

I wish I could take away the threats of the world. I wish I could stop these horrible events from happening. But even though I can’t wipe away this sorrow and tragedy, being your mom reminds me that I’m obligated to do something.

So tomorrow, we will all get up and go to work and to school.

We will all show kindness to our neighbors and compassion to those who are different than us.

We will show patience and understanding when conflict arises, and we will offer forgiveness and gentleness in the midst of frustration.

This is how we shine a light when the darkness comes. This is what we can do in our own little neighborhood. This is how we stop fear from winning.

Tomorrow, we begin again. One step at a time, one spark of goodness in the world that needs it so desperately.

May it begin with us,

Love, Mom

 

 

 

A Story for the Day After: A Letter to My Son

little-blue-truck

Dearest Felix,

You are the joy of our lives. You are the reason I hope for peace and justice in the world.

You are the reason I long for a country that values unity without requiring uniformity.

You are the reason I will fight for a culture where every child grows up believing they have inherent worth no matter how they worship, who they love, or what they look like.

I am writing to you on November 9, 2016. The election is over. But I do not want to write to you about the election. I cannot talk about it anymore. I cannot lose hours at home looking at the news or the Facebook rants or the political commentaries anymore.

Instead, I want to hold you tightly on that big white chair in the corner of your room. I want to read one of your favorite board books and watch you turn the pages.

Tonight, for the 200th time, let’s read The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.

We’ll practice the beautifully diverse chorus of animal voices together: “the sheep said ‘baa’, the cow said ‘moo’, ‘oink’ said the piggy, and ‘beep!’ said Blue.”

We’ll turn the pages in suspense to the moment when the big Dump Truck comes along- interrupting that diverse chorus of voices, slinging mud, and getting stuck.

But we’ll turn the page again, because that’s not the end of the story.

Together, we’ll remember that the Dump cried for help from the mud, and at first ‘nobody heard, or nobody cared.” The duck, the cow and the toad were still feeling bitter, burned, and bulldozed.

Together, we’ll turn yet another page- because it’s still not the end of the story.

We’ll read about how eventually everyone got in line to help, to make a way when there was no way. We’ll read to the end: when love wins and kindness overwhelms the Dump.

We love this story because even in the midst of mud bullies- the Little Blue Truck reminds us that we are all in this together. Even after Dump hurts those he passes on the streets and insults those who are smaller than him or different than him- we see that kindness and unity triumph.

We learn again that even small voices who speak differently and look differently and have experienced mud in their faces can take the high road and work together for the good.

We’ll read this story together tonight, my love. Because I don’t want to talk about the election.

Instead, I want to talk about the importance of you being a voice for good. I want to talk about you being an agent for change. I want to talk about you being a team player, a helper, a Blue Truck. I want to talk about you valuing the diverse voices you will hear in your life, the many different folks you will encounter on your path- and I want you to remember how to work with them and for them.

Sometimes, that means you are called to work with Dump so that none of us are stuck in the mud, and that is good work to do, my child.

I believe in you and the hopeful world you will help create. Even when Dumps come along- remember that we all belong to one another. We all deserve love-even those who bully or bulldoze. We all will eventually need to work together if any of us are going to get out of the mud.

Love,

Mama

 

Not Locker Room Talk: A Letter to My Son

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+Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer…

Dearest Felix,

As far as I can tell- you are ‘all boy.’ You love to throw a ball across the room with the full force of your arms. You take your sweet, soft stuffed animals and use them as hammers on our furniture. You flirt with your teachers and church grandmas by blowing them kisses and playing coy games of peek-a-boo to make them smile.

As you grow up, I imagine you will hear a lot about what it means to be a boy, and a man. You will learn from your dad, your peers, and your role models. You’ll spend time with a lot of other guys and you might talk about sports or cars or maybe women…

Tonight, as you sleep soundly snuggled in your moustache covered pajamas- I am reading about a candidate for the presidency who is trying to explain his ‘locker room conversations’ about grabbing women, kissing them without consent, and rudely commenting on their looks.

Sweet child- hear me when I say: this is not what honorable men talk about. The things we say influence what we do. Words create worlds. You cannot joke or whisper or tease about violating women- not even in the locker room.

Do not believe boys in your life who will try to tell you that this is the way to be ‘a man.’ Remember, that to be ‘all boy’ does not mean that you touch without asking or that you talk about women as if they are not made in the very image of God.

No matter how far we’ve come- women still face harassment, objectification, and unwanted touch. Almost every woman you will meet will have a story.

Darling boy, it happened to me, your mama.

25 years old, I was riding my bike home. I was wearing a Habitat for Humanity t-shirt and yoga pants, but it doesn’t matter. I stopped at a red light and as I stood over my bike at the crosswalk- a middle aged man who I did not know walked up to me and grabbed my breast. Then, he walked away.

At first, I was in shock. I was embarrassed. By the time I got home, I was in tears.

He touched me without asking. I do not know where he learned that this was OK, but I want to make sure you know it isn’t.

It is not OK. It is not locker room talk. It is not that ‘boys will be boys.’

Felix: in your life, you will have a voice. As a privileged, white male in the United States- people will listen to you. If you continue to grow up as ‘all boy’- remember, being a boy and a man means that you have power. You will be an influencer. You will have opportunities.

My deepest hope for you is that you use your power, your influence, your opportunities, and your voice to stand up for justice, to seek equality for those with less voice than you and to protect those who are more vulnerable than you.

You are just learning your first words: cat, Dada, ball, good, uh-oh… But before we know it, you will be jabbering away in full sentences and soon- bonding with your friends in the locker room.

Use your words to build up, not to tear down, my love.

Use your voice to respect, honor, and empower others- not degrade them, my sweet.

On this night, when I see so many people trying to defend ‘locker room talk’, my prayer for you is that you will use your voice to speak with gentleness, honor, and respect for men and women alike- because the words we use shape the culture we live in.

Love,

Your mom

 

 

 

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